BCS awards renovation bid, talks student safety

BCS-small-logoThe Bartlett public school board awarded a district office renovation bid and honored student artists at the Feb. 22 meeting. They also heard an educator’s comment about an upcoming national gun violence protest, and the superintendent commented in general about the district’s latest work on school security.

Gun violence protest

National School Walkout Day will be on April 20, with participating students and faculty across the U.S. walking out at 10 a.m. to protest gun violence in the wake of the mass murders at a school in Parkland, Fla. Tens of thousands of Americans have already signed up for what promises to be a large national protest.

At the BCS board meeting, Shoneisha Myers of the Bartlett Education Association mentioned the national event and asked the superintendent and board members to begin talking and preparing now with students and faculty and helping them and the community face these concerns. The BEA is the professional organization for educators in Bartlett City Schools.

“We encourage you guys to just be proactive and really think about ways to engage the entire district and all of our students in a positive way as a show of support for the issues that are facing education but also just as a way of being proactive,” Myers said.

She offered to meet with the superintendent and/or board members to discuss some ideas her organization’s members have considered.

As a general policy, the board does not respond to public commentary during the same meeting in which the comments are introduced, and the board didn’t respond to Myers’ comments.

As of Tuesday, Feb. 27, the district’s superintendent and communications director also had not responded to a request for their feedback.

Superintendent Dr. David Stephens commented in general on gun violence and school safety at a later part of the meeting.

“All of our hearts are heavy with the situation that happened in Parkland, Fla.,” he said. “One thing we do want the board to know and the public to know is that every year we work with our local law enforcement at the beginning of the year. We review and look at all of our training, threat assessments. We come back during the year and recalibrate and look at that.”

Last week, district leaders took another look at communications about training and best practices, he said. A meeting between Bartlett principals and district staff was productive, and they discussed refreshing the faculty’s knowledge and keeping an open dialog with students. The district staff also had a similar meeting with the assistant principals.

District staff, the high school resource officer, several school administrators, school counselors and others also met with the Bartlett Police chief and several officers to discuss strategies and future training.

“The thing that was really encouraging, they gave us the affirmation we were doing everything the right way,” Stephens said. “The other thing we looked at was ‘How can we build a stronger bridge between law enforcement, mental health at schools, all of those components?’ And we have some really good ideas and strategies there.”

He concluded, “The number one thing is we want to keep our teachers, our kids, our community safe at school.”

Bid awarded

In other action, the board awarded the contract for renovations to the school district’s pending new administrative offices at Bartlett Square. Currently, the district office is housed in close quarters at Bartlett High School with various departments dispersed throughout the district’s properties.

Bell’s Construction, based in Memphis, was the lower and the better of the two bids received. Renaissance Group in Lakeland is the architectural firm for interior and exterior renovations at the Bartlett Square property.

Student artists

The board also honored students for their work in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, a program that dates back to 1923 and which recognizes vision, ingenuity and talent. Honorees included:
•Andrew Cunningham, an eighth-grader at Appling Middle School who won two gold and two silver keys for his photography.
•Katherine Dowell, a ninth-grader at Bartlett Ninth Grade Academy, who won five awards this year, including a gold key for artwork in the novel she wrote and illustrated.
•Maria Gonzalez, a ninth-grader at the Academy, earned a gold key for a photo of her cousin.
•Nicklaus Kuntzman, a ninth-grader at the Academy, earned a gold key with his self-portrait and also won second place for his entire division, earning a $250 award.

Additional votes

In other business, the board:

  • Approved the schedule of school board meetings for the 2018-19 school year.
  • Approved local adoption of textbooks.
  • Had the first reading of policy revisions on student transportation management. The changes help the district remain aligned with state law for reporting safety complaints.
  • Moved approximately $4.3 million from the fund balance the district has saved in the general purpose fund into the capital projects fund.

Board member and vice-chair Bryan Woodruff was not present for the meeting.